Defending Moise and other football notes
Running backs coach Carl Franks defended having sophomore Moise Plancher in the game for a crucial second-and-goal play from the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter Saturday. Plancher was stopped for no gain, but Franks said he was confident with Plancher in the game in place of an injured Mike Ford.
"Mo's practiced there. It's his spot as a backup," Franks said Monday night. "If we had blocked it right, he would have scored. If I had not been comfortable with him, I would have not put him in, or we would have not run that formation."
Leavitt, clarifying an ambiguous statement he made after the game, said Monday that he knew Plancher was in the game, but didn't realize he'd be the ballcarrier on the play, thinking he was a lead blocker for another running back.
Ford, by the way, had injured his rib cage as he tried to throw a block on the previous drive. He was at practice Monday night, running with his teammates while carrying a ball in post-practice conditioning runs, and Franks said it's possible he could play Saturday. Again, Ford was hospitalized for a short time Saturday night because he was having trouble breathing and there was concern he might have collapsed or damaged a lung; tests there showed no lung damage and no broken ribs.
Receiver Amarri Jackson was not at practice Monday night, but I saw him Monday afternoon, and he was still walking on crutches, with a heavy brace on his injured knee. Jim Leavitt and receivers coach Mike Canales said they don't know yet how long he'll be sidelined; this Saturday certainly seems questionable at best. Freshman Carlton Mitchell, leading USF with 280 receiving yards, would step up for his first start if Jackson can't go.
-- Noticed something interesting watching Saturday's game on DVR: On USF's opening drive, after Jamar Taylor's 54-yard run, on third-and-goal from the 3, it looks to me like USF was running the same ill-fated naked bootleg the Bulls tried on third-and-goal from the 1 at the end of the game. In heavy rain, Grothe loses the ball after the snap and recovers it for a short loss, but all three running backs took off in the opposite direction, leaving Grothe alone on the back side for the bootleg. It didn't fool UConn then, so I don't get why the Bulls would go back to that play with the game on the line. Similar situation, similar call, similar result.
-- As much as we wrote that USF had a terrible first half, the first quarter wasn't that bad. Two missed field goals, but otherwise, the Bulls weren't really outplayed, down 3-0. Total offense was within 6 yards of being dead even. UConn outscored USF 13-0 in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, and that made the Huskies' victory possible.
-- I'm impressed by the number of players battling through injuries. Defensive tackle Allen Cray, who saw significant action with Richard Clebert slowed by an ankle injury, made two tackles easily 20 yards downfield, even though he was slow to walk off the field with trainers between the two plays. Safety Carlton Williams literally collapsed coming off the field after taking a blow to the head, and was back out shortly after; Matt Grothe had his right ankle wrapped after the play where his interception was run back for a score, and he was scrambling for yards two plays later.
-- Watched the 1-yard Mike Ford touchdown run, where Cedric Hill was called for holding. After reviewing it a couple of times, it seems like a legitimate call, relevant to the play. Hill is pulling on a Connecticut player's jersey as he's trying to tackle Ford. ESPN's analysts never picked up on the flag being on Hill, making a comment about a lineman unrelated to the play or the flag. I think the flag came a second late, but the call itself shouldn't be questioned. And if you watch Hill's pivotal drop, a UConn defender did have a hand in the air right in front of his face. Rough sequence of plays, to be sure. Again, I admire the guy for coming off the team bus to address his play in the game.
-- Officials stopped the game in the fourth quarter to review whether a 1-yard UConn pass play on second down was a completed pass or not. I don't know how long a play would have to be to seem worth stopping play for a few minutes, but I have to think that distance is longer than 1 yard. Is the difference between third and 6 or third and 5 worth the hit in credibility you take for reviewing an irrelevant play?
-- Check out these stats: In USF's first five games, Grothe had 246 rushing yards and two touchdowns; USF's three running backs (Williams, Ford, Taylor) had 609 yards and 11 touchdowns; in the last three, Grothe has 304 yards and four touchdowns, the three RBs have 203 yards and two scores.
-- USF's receivers are so depleted. You had Taurus Johnson out, then Jackson, and Jessie Hester was the only Bulls player to catch a pass in the first half. Found out Monday that freshman Eddie Alcin didn't make the trip because of a groin injury, so on that last drive, the Bulls are using freshman A.J. Love, who doesn't have a catch yet this season.
Okay. Off to bed. I'll have some basketball on Tuesday -- finally got USF's newest commitment, Eladio Espinosa, on the phone tonight. So check back for your hoops fix in the morning ...